When it comes to the development of modern Islamic reform in the 20th century, there is something of a blind spot in historical scholarship. While few would deny the rise in influence of Saudi emirs and their religious scholars within reformist circles from the 1920s onward, little is known about the details of the relationship between leading Islamic activists, especially Egyptians, and the newly created Saudi state. Historians have noted how Egypt-based reformers put their skills, reputations and even their printing presses at the service of the Saudis, thereby appearing to be more or less in line with the understanding of Islam that prevailed in Najd.
Henri Lauzière is an assistant professor of history at Northwestern. He received his PhD from Georgetown University in 2008 and was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies in 2008–2009. His main area of research focuses on modern Islamic intellectual history in the Middle East and North Africa, with a particular interest in the ways in which historians process and produce knowledge about ideas. He has published twice in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, and also served as contributor to the second edition of The Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa and The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought. He is currently completing a book manuscript, tentatively entitled “The Making of Salafism and the Evolution of Islamic Reform in the Twentieth Century,” which uses the intellectual journey of a Moroccan reformer and globetrotter named Taqi al-Din al-Hilali (1894 – 1987) to trace the gradual construction of Salafism as a category for asserting claims about Islamic thought and activism.